Because low to upper middle class parents view parenting as a second full-time job, there’s no way they won’t “maximize” the kid’s education and schedule. That means educational videos starting at age one (remember the “Baby Einstein” craze ten years ago? I now read that kids shouldn’t allowed to even see a screen before age two… who or what to believe?). There’s also yoga classes for newborns and language classes for toddlers and countless other ways to enjoy a week filled with music practice, sports clubs, volunteer activities, community service and play dates. Playing is a highly scheduled and organized function with rules of engagement, social know-how and clearly defined objectives.
All this agitation doesn’t mean discipline, though. Just running around never led anyone very far. It’s guitar for two months and soccer for three, then moving rapidly on to robotics and chess, though giving up two weeks later to try out tae-kwon-do (one month) and Chinese (one year elective with zero return). Substance doesn’t matter, quantity does.
At the first sign of boredom, the parents will quickly allow the kid to quit (insisting on the kid continuing would be considered moral abuse). The widespread belief here is that education should be fun at all costs. The only way to learn is to want to learn. If the kid says he’s not having fun, then there’s no way she will learn anything. Blame the teacher, the school, the subject, the other parents or the timing. As it would be wrong to just force the kid to stick with something or to demand intellectual commitment and follow-through (again, a reprehensible abuse of parental authority), the American kid will shortly try his or her talent at everything in the book before being granted his unalienable right to sit in front of TV with a bag of chips for the rest of his life.
The talented Malcolm Gladwell made quite an impressive discovery in his book titled, Outliers. Having studied hundreds of bright minds, successful businessmen, geniuses and innovators, he famously concluded that the secret of talent is… work. Painful, gruesomely hard work (surprise!). That uncompromising dedication and discipline yield results is a message that has yet to resonate in 21st Century America.